-- Bernie Sanders visited a mosque in downtown Washington, DC, just blocks for the United States Capitol, Wednesday afternoon, in an effort to show solidarity with interfaith leaders and in response to what he calls Donald Trump’s "xenophobic" comments.
“It is time to say enough is enough. It is time to end religious bigotry, it is time to build a nation in which we all stand together… condemn the anti-Muslim rhetoric that we are hearing,” the Vermont Senator said. He sat around a table at Masij Muhammad, also referred to as “the nation’s mosque,” with its Imam Talib Shareef and a local rabbi and chaplains.
Sanders emphasized that the country had worked hard to overcome racism and discrimination in the past.
“We’re not going back. We have suffered too much. There's been too much division. We are going forward… We will not allow people to divide us up, because you’re Jewish or you're Muslim or Christian or Catholic. We’re not going to allow that to happen,” Sanders continued. He spoke at length about what he sees as the dangers of hateful rhetoric. Listing the Rwandan genocide, Japanese-American internment camps, and the conflict him Bosnia, Sanders who is Jewish, argued that "bigotry and intimidation" can come with "unspeakable results."
"We must never forget what happened under the racist ideology of the Nazis, which led to the deaths of millions of millions of people, including family members of mine, as well as Poles, Russians, gypsies, gay people, people with disabilities, people who were quote-unquote 'different.' People who were quote-unquote 'inferior,'" he warned.
The event seemed to focus on Muslim-American veterans and members of the armed services too, who spoke out directly against Trump’s proposal to ban on Muslims entering this country.
“It was a slap in the face to make a statement telling me that if I left the country, I might not be allowed back into the country that I protected, defended, that I put my life on the line... it was like a slap in my face,’ Shareef, a retired Air Force veteran himself, told reporters referencing Trump’s recent comments. “As a veteran, my life was on the line, I would give my life and I still will, for this country and the founding principles for which we were founded on.”
The Imam welcomed more presidential candidates to visit his mosque in the future.
Also attending the event was one of Sanders only congressional endorsers: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), the first Muslim American elected to the U.S. House of Representative. Ellison praised Sanders for coming to the mosque.
“I really think it takes a lot of courage,” Ellison told Sanders, commending him for the event. “At a time when bigots are leading in national polls it takes a certain amount of courage to stand up and call us to our higher nobler values which you have just done thank you for that.”
One of Sanders primary challengers, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, held a press conference outside a mosque in Virginia last week as well.